Unveiling the Blinking Dog: Decoding Canine Body Language

Have you ever noticed your dog blinking their eyes? Did you know that blinking is an important way for dogs to communicate? When dogs blink, it can have different meanings depending on the situation. Sometimes it’s a way for them to show they are calm or trying to make peace with another dog or person. Other times, blinking can happen when they feel stressed or scared. Dogs use blinking as a polite way to communicate and avoid confrontation, unlike direct eye contact, which can be seen as rude. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of blinking dogs, understand the difference between blinking and winking, and discover the hidden messages behind this unique form of dog communication. So, let’s dive in and learn more about what your dog’s blinks might be telling you!

Winking Vs. Blinking

Winking and blinking in dogs have their own unique meanings. Winking refers to a brief closure of one eye, while blinking involves the brief closure of both eyes. Unlike humans, dogs have more than two eyelids, adding complexity to these actions.

While blinking serves purposes such as lubricating their eyes and protecting them from debris or potential threats, it also showcases dogs’ remarkable ability to communicate through facial expressions. Dogs have mastered the art of using their eyes to convey messages and influence human behavior, as discussed in our article on their eyebrow communication. Blinking is yet another subtle yet effective way for dogs to engage with us through eye contact.

So, if you happen to catch your furry friend winking or blinking, you may wonder what these behaviors signify in their unique canine language.

Why Do Dogs Blink?

Why Do Dogs Blink

Dogs blink as a way to show friendliness and make peaceful eye contact. When a dog blinks, it is a signal that they mean no harm and want to negotiate. It’s their way of saying, “I come in peace!” Dogs use blinks along with other calming signals like looking away, relaxed body posture, and soft ears to communicate that they are relaxed and not a threat. Blinks also help dogs avoid conflicts by disengaging from rude or ill-mannered approaches. They can use blinking to dispel negative energy and build trust with strangers. By positively reinforcing your dog’s blinking, you encourage friendly communication and help promote happier and healthier interactions with other dogs.

Examples of Dogs Blinking in Various Situations

  1. In a scolding situation, a dog sits on the ground with closed mouth and flattened ears. He turns his head to the side, then back to face the guardian, accompanied by a lip lick. Squinted eyes and a yawn follow while maintaining eye contact. The dog displays quick eye blinks, more lip licks, and blinks again. This body language is often mistaken as guilt. However, the dog is actually using appeasement signals to calm the situation and communicate non-aggression. Research by Alexandra Horowitz debunks the notion that the ‘guilty look’ reflects a dog’s understanding of wrongdoing.
  2. In an open dog park, two dogs come close to each other. One dog turns three-quarters towards the other, appearing alert with forward ears and raised tail. They briefly lock eyes. The second dog, signaling non-confrontation, turns her head slightly, squints her eyes, and blinks. The first dog responds by blinking and shifting his gaze away. Through blinking and averted gaze, both dogs communicate a desire to avoid trouble and indicate they do not want interaction.
  3. In an unfamiliar shelter environment, a fearful dog keeps her distance from a volunteer who is patiently trying to gain her trust. The dog’s body is hunched, head slightly down, and mouth closed. Occasionally, she turns her head away and blinks. Compared to previous encounters, where she had wide, fixed eyes, her blinking indicates progress in communication and self-expression. It shows she means no harm and desires safety. However, considering her overall body language, it is evident that fear still lingers.
  4. A dog sits before her guardian, who is filming her. She appears relaxed, with a low, circling tail, closed mouth, and pointy yet slightly off-centered ears. While the guardian points the camera, the dog blinks rapidly and subtly tilts her head. The wagging tail and relaxed body indicate her comfort, but the direct attention prompts calming blinks. The dog responds to the focused pressure by expressing herself through blinking.
  5. A person reaches into a cage to pet a dog. The dog feels trapped and leans into the corner, sitting with a raised paw. His body is still, and his ears are pulled back against his head. As the person strokes his shoulder, the dog turns his head away, blinks, and shows signs of discomfort. He tries to make himself small and retreats to the rear of the cage, indicating his fear and unease through his body language.
  6. A dog sits peacefully on the ground as his guardian asks for something. In response, the dog turns his head away and gives a gentle, slow blink. This indicates that he may be feeling a little pressure or slight unease in reaction to the guardian’s request.

Here are just a few examples, but there are many more. Start observing to see if you notice any blinking in different situations. Remember, it’s crucial to carefully observe and consider all aspects of the situation before making any interpretations, as discussed below.

Observing Dog Body Language: Key Notes to Consider

Observing dog body language should be done when you want to understand their behavior and communication. It is important to carefully observe and interpret their body language in various situations, considering the dog’s entire body, signals, and environment. By paying attention to their postures, facial expressions, and movements, you can gain insights into their emotions and intentions. However, it is crucial to offer interpretations only after observing the complete interaction and considering the wider picture, focusing on behavior rather than assuming internal emotions.


Understanding dog body language, including the subtle cues of a blinking dog, can greatly enhance our ability to communicate and connect with our furry companions. Blinking in dogs serves as a calming signal, an appeasement gesture, and a way to negotiate and avoid conflict. By observing and interpreting the complete interaction, considering the dog’s entire body and the context, we can gain valuable insights into their emotions and intentions. However, it’s important to remember that interpretations should be offered with caution, focusing on behavior rather than presuming internal emotional states. So, the next time you encounter a blinking dog, pay attention to their body language, be observant, and strive to build a stronger bond based on mutual understanding and respect.

Brenda Thompson

Brenda Thompson is an expert in dog behavior with over a decade of experience, and she is also passionate about working with cats and birds. In addition to contributing pet content to PetDogPlanet.com, she is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2007 and has over 16 years of experience in treating animals. Her expertise is in educating pet owners on common pet health problems and providing them with option-based care to help choose what is best for their companions

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